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Wars of the Roses archer: John Nesfield's Retinue.
The Armies & the Losses


The royal army was commanded by the Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Devon, but Devon probably withdrew his forces before the battle and took no part in the action. The latter may have numbered as many as 2000 and included the only substantial body of archers in the royal army, though according to Hall these archers numbered just 800. The loss of the archers in particular placed Pembroke at a great disadvantage in the opening stages of the battle, when in all he probably had between 2000 – 3000 Welsh infantry and cavalry. One of the primary accounts of the battle suggests a different situation, with Waurin claiming that Devon’s troops fought in the early stages of the battle but then retreated or fled when rebel reinforcements arrived.

Suggestions that the royal and the rebel armies both numbered some 20,000 troops when the battle began are clearly overstated, when the location of the battle and the nobles present are considered. Medieval chronicles are notorious for their inability to handle large numbers. At Edgcote, 20,000 seems a very large number for an action which involved only a part of the two armies that were being assembled by the King and Warwick respectively.


The rebel army was commanded by Robin of Redesdale. Despite attempts by historians to identify his actual identity no clear evidence exists that can definitively determine who he might have been. It is unclear how many troops were under his command, but they certainly included a significant number of archers. In addition, towards the end of the battle reinforcements arrived under the command of John Clapham. Hall’s figure of 500 men seems a more realistic number for these reserves compared to the 15,000 listed in ‘Hearne’s fragment’, although recent reproductions of the fragment indicate the number should be read as 1,500.


Hall’s figure of 5,000 Welsh troops, of the Earl of Pembroke, killed in the battle is undoubtedly an exaggeration. Warkworth gives a more believable 2,000 and indeed there do appear to have been heavy losses, particularly amongst the Welsh forces, for the contemporary chronicles name a substantial number of notable figures killed in the action. Evans’ book below contains a full list of the nobles identified as having died across all sources, identifying those who may be duplicates:

• Evans, G: “The Battle of Edgcote 1469 – Re-evaluating the evidence”.


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